Connecticut Plants
Cut-leaved Grape Fern (Dissected Grape Fern)
Botrychium dissectum Spreng.

Cut-leaved grape fern is variable in appearance. The plant photographed shows the lacy leaf margin that gives this fern its name, but some plants have smooth-edged leaves. (The lower photo shows a plant that is probably a smooth-edged variety of this fern.) Both types can be confused with the rattlesnake fern. Cut-leaved fern has leathery, evergreen fronds, in contrast to the thinner, deciduous fronds of the rattlesnake fern. Autumn is a good time to hunt for the cut-leaved grape fern, as the fronds are still bright green when most plants are turning brown. In winter, cut-leaved grape fern turns bronzy-green.

Grape ferns are named for the round, clustered spore cases, which have some resemblance to a bunch of grapes.

  • Synonyms: Sceptridium dissectum
  • Family: adder's-tongue (Ophioglossaceae)
  • Habitat: woods, fields, often in disturbed sites
  • Height: 6-15 inches
  • Location of spores: separate fertile section of frond, which branches from the sterile portion near the ground
  • Petiole (leaf stalk): light green, smooth, fragile
  • Growth pattern: single leaf
  • Persistence: green through the winter, but deciduous in summer
  • Origin: native
Botrychium dissectum Spreng.

A cut-leaf grape fern plant has only a single frond. The sterile part is in the center of the photo. In fall, mature plants grow a single fertile section, which stands on a long stalk above the sterile part. In this photo, the base of the fertile section's stalk is visible in back.

Botrychium dissectum Spreng.

Fertile portion of the same fern.

Botrychium dissectum Spreng.

Most cut-leaf grape ferns have lacy edges on their fronds. . .

Botrychium dissectum Spreng.

. . . but some lack the lacy edges. This fern is probably a variety of cut-leaf grape fern, Botrychium dissectum var. obliquum.